John DeShazier picks the top five tight ends that the Saints will face in 2015:
- Greg Olsen is coming off his best season in Carolina, and there's no reason to believe that the Panthers won't continue to feature him as one of Cam Newton's favorite targets. The Panthers still lack star quality at receiver, so Olsen may be looking at another season comparable to last year (84 catches, 1,008 yards and six touchdowns). The Saints get two cracks at him, two chances to hopefully figure out a way to slow him down.
- Having T.Y. Hilton at receiver is quite a concern for Indianapolis' opponents. Having Coby Fleener at tight end is going to become a pretty big one, too, if it hasn't already. Fleener caught 51 passes for 774 yards and eight touchdowns last year. His numbers improved in each of his first three NFL seasons and they may take another jump this year because the Colts expect to have an improved running game and because Fleener has the trump card of having been the tight end for quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford, too. The two have the kind of chemistry that should make Fleener a security blanket for Luck in the near future.
- You don't hear much about Delanie Walker, but opposing coaches know plenty about the Titans tight end that caught 63 passes for 890 yards and four touchdowns last season. Walker also has played fullback and wide receiver in his previous nine seasons, but tight end is where he appears to best fit. And whether 5.Tennessee's quarterback is rookie Marcus Mariota or second-year thrower Zach Mettenberger, the smart play will be for a young quarterback to lean on the steady tight end.
- Jason Witten isn't quite what he used to be. Twelve years in the NFL can take a lot out of a man, so it's understandable that his 64 catches last year were his fewest since he had 64 in 2006, and that his 703 receiving yards were his least since he had 754 that same year. But he caught five touchdowns and with receiver Dez Bryant drawing extra attention and the Cowboys having no proven running back, Witten could again become Mr. Reliable for Dallas' offense. But the question is, How much does he have left?
- Playing tight end for the Eagles' offense is a pretty good gig. Philly spreads the field on offense, runs plays at warp speed and has an 1,800-yard rusher (DeMarco Murray) in the backfield. Zach Ertz can get lost in the shuffle, but he's a nice alternative to have around. Last year he caught 58 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns. If you pay too much attention to Murray and Philly's receivers, Ertz could put up big numbers.